Twelve-step Programs in Literary Works Summary


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The twelve steps are a method of recovery from addictive, compulsive, or otherwise hurtful behaviors. The steps are practiced by those who seek to recover from such behaviors. Those who, for example, wish to recover from alcoholism attend meetings of the group Alcoholics Anonymous and there learn about how to practice the twelve steps. There are many groups that follow the pattern established by Alcoholics Anonymous; other groups include Debtors Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Overeaters Anonymous. The twelve steps are actions that the recovering person takes in order to recover. In summary (the exact wording may be found in Alcoholics Anonymous) the steps are first, that one admits powerlessness over the behavior; second, that one believes in the restorative capacity of a higher power; third, that one makes a decision to accept spiritual guidance; fourth, that one takes a moral inventory; fifth, that one recounts that inventory in full to oneself, to another person, and to one’s higher power; sixth, that one becomes ready to have one’s higher power remove one’s defects of character; seventh, that one asks one’s higher power to remove one’s defects of character; eighth, that one makes a list of those one has harmed; ninth, that one makes appropriate amends to everyone on the list; tenth, that one continues to practice steps four through nine; eleventh, that one prays and meditates; twelfth, that one helps others with the same problem recover. What has had a greater effect on literature, however, than the twelve steps themselves, are the jargon, opinions, and views regarding addiction that are common among twelve-step programs. The twelve-step perspective is expressed in Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step books.

The twelve-step perspective can be traced to the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. The text and primary reference of this support group, Alcoholics Anonymous, was published in 1939, and its companion piece, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, was published in 1952. The theories about alcoholism that are expounded in Alcoholics Anonymous have become widely and popularly accepted, even by those who have never heard of the book. Thus, literature in the twentieth century has been generally influenced by the twelve-step perspective on alcoholism and other addictions. Twelve-step programs have affected—by means of their own...

(The entire section is 998 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism. 1939. 3d ed. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1976.

Crowley, John W. The White Logic: Alcoholism and Gender in American Modernist Fiction. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994.

Gilmore, Thomas D. Equivocal Spirits: Alcohol and Drinking in Twentieth-Century Literature. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987.

Goodwin, Donald W. Alcohol and the Writer. Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, 1988.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1952.